Tsunamis

                                  Overview

                                  Tsunamis are giant waves that are produced when a large volume of water is displaced in an ocean or large lake by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, underwater landslide or meteorite. Between 1998-2017, tsunamis caused more than 250 000 deaths globally, including more than 227 000 deaths due to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.  

                                  Tsunamis can travel thousands of kilometres with speeds up to 800 kilometres per hour. Once they reach the coast, they can have devastating impacts on the community. Successive crests can arrive at intervals of every 10 to 45 minutes and wreak destruction for several hours.

                                  More than 700 million people live in low-lying coastal areas and Small Island Developing States exposed to extreme sea-level events including tsunamis.

                                  Resilient infrastructure, early warning systems, and education is critical to saving people and protecting their assets against tsunami risk in the future.

                                  Impact

                                   

                                  Drowning is the most significant cause of death due to tsunamis. Injuries from debris account for many of the health care needs in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Falling structures and waters full of swirling debris can inflict crush injuries, fractures, and a variety of open and closed wounds.

                                  The risk of communicable diseases depends on the size, health status and living conditions of the population displaced by the tsunami. The population could be at risk of water-borne diseases and respiratory diseases due to crowding in temporary shelters and inadequate water and sanitation, as well as vaccine-preventable diseases if there is a low vaccination coverage rate prior to the disaster.

                                  Survivors of tsunamis often also face short- and long-term mental health effects due to loss of family, property, livestock or crops. The immediate health concerns after the rescue of survivors following a natural disaster are drinking water, food, shelter and medical care for injuries.

                                   

                                  WHO Response

                                  The magnitude of the physical and human costs from tsunamis can be reduced if adequate emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery measures are implemented in a sustainable and timely manner. 

                                  WHO works with Member States to build resilient and proactive health systems that can anticipate the needs and challenges during emergencies so that they are more likely to reduce risks and respond effectively when needed.

                                  As the health cluster lead for global emergencies, WHO works with partners to respond to:

                                  • ensure appropriate food supplementation; 
                                  • restore primary care services, like immunization, child and maternal health, and mental health;
                                  • assemble mobile health teams and outreach;
                                  • conduct epidemic surveillance, early warning and response;
                                  • call for emergency funding to support health action.

                                   

                                   

                                  250 000 people

                                  died

                                  Between 1998-2017, more than 250 000 people died due to tsunamis.

                                  Find out more

                                  700 million

                                  live on coast

                                  Over 700 million people live in low-lying coastal areas and Small Island Developing States.

                                  Find out more

                                  Publications

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                                  Chemical releases associated with earthquakes

                                  This leaflet provides brief information about Natech and other chemical releases caused directly or indirectly by earthquakes. It is an extract from...

                                  Ten years after the tsunami of 2004: Impact action change future

                                  On 26 December 2004, two extremely rare events occurred close to the southwestern shores of northern Indonesia. The first was a massive earthquake measuring...

                                  Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, based on a preliminary dose estimation

                                  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11 March 2011 led to releases of radioactive material into the environment from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s...

                                  Preliminary dose estimation from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami

                                  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11 March 2011 led to releases of radioactive material into the environment from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s...